US20070262083A1 - Vending machine with non-vend storage area and modular storage unit - Google Patents

Vending machine with non-vend storage area and modular storage unit Download PDF

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Publication number
US20070262083A1
US20070262083A1 US11/433,874 US43387406A US2007262083A1 US 20070262083 A1 US20070262083 A1 US 20070262083A1 US 43387406 A US43387406 A US 43387406A US 2007262083 A1 US2007262083 A1 US 2007262083A1
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Prior art keywords
cabinet
storage area
vending machine
module
articles
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Abandoned
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US11/433,874
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Cyril Turner
Bradley Boehnke
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Coca Cola Refreshments USA Inc
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Coca Cola Refreshments USA Inc
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Priority to US11/433,874 priority Critical patent/US20070262083A1/en
Assigned to COCA-COLA ENTERPRISES INC. reassignment COCA-COLA ENTERPRISES INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: BOEHNKE, BRADLEY W., TURNER, CYRIL J.
Publication of US20070262083A1 publication Critical patent/US20070262083A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F9/00Details other than those peculiar to special kinds or types of apparatus
    • G07F9/10Casings or parts thereof, e.g. with means for heating or cooling

Abstract

A cabinet for housing a vending machine having an article storage area from which the articles stored therein cannot be automatically vended by the dispensing apparatus of the vending machine. An interchangeable storage module is adapted to be received within the article storage area from which articles cannot be vended.

Description

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention relates to vending machines for dispensing articles, such as foods, beverages, candy, snacks, toiletries or other products that may conveniently be dispensed to consumers through unattended machines, and more particularly, to a cabinet for housing a vending machine that includes one or more modular storage areas for storing articles that are not capable of being dispensed through the vending apparatus of the vending machine.
  • Articles of all kinds are currently dispensed through vending machines. Vending machines may dispense exclusively one type of product, such as a gum-ball machine, or a variety of products, such as beverages and snacks. Similarly, vending machines may be configured to dispense refrigerated products such as beverages, room temperature products such as candy and snacks, hot products such as coffee or french fries, or in some instances, both hot and cold products.
  • Regardless of the type and nature of article or product being vended, all current vending machines share a common feature in that all of the product storage areas within the machine are each connected to or accessible by the vending apparatus of the machine. This is true whether there is only one or a plurality of such product storage areas. In other words, current vending machines are not configured to hold and store articles that cannot be vended. In fact, many prior art inventions have been directed specifically towards maximizing the space available for holding the articles to be vended.
  • The present invention, however, is directed towards providing an article storage area within a vending machine to hold articles that are not accessible to be dispensed from the machine by the vending apparatus. In a preferred embodiment, the present invention is directed towards a modular article storage unit that may be interchangeably affixed within or to the housing or cabinet of the vending machine wherein the stored articles are not available to be dispensed through the machine's vending means or dispensing apparatus.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention relates to an improved vending machine having an article storage area in which articles can be stored, but which articles are not capable of being automatically vended. In the preferred embodiment, an article storage module is sized to be received within the article storage area, and said module may be independently removed from the cabinet of the vending machine. Articles stored in the article storage module cannot be automatically vended by the dispensing apparatus of the vending machine.
  • Prior art vending machines comprise at a minimum a securable cabinet or housing, said cabinet housing a payment system, at least one vendable article storage area, and at least one dispensing apparatus for moving an article from one or a plurality of vendable article storage areas to a dispensing area accessible by the user.
  • In simple vending machines, such as coin operated gumball-type machines, the payment system and the dispensing apparatus are mechanically interconnected, requiring the insertion of a coin to turn the dispensing apparatus. In more complex vending machines, the payment systems and dispensing apparatus may be mechanically interconnected, but more commonly involve one of the many well known selection systems for selecting the desired article to be vended and electronically actuating the dispensing apparatus. Depending upon the type of articles being vended, the vending machine may also have product-specific equipment such as a refrigeration system for cooling the articles, or heating or cooking mechanisms for heating the articles as part of the vending process. Similarly, some vending machines employ data recording systems that collect and store information regarding the other systems of the vending machine, such as payment information, inventory counts and weights, temperature and other functional data, and can even run diagnostics on such systems to identify and provide alerts regarding the operation of the vending machine and its various systems.
  • A vending machine produced according to the present invention further comprises a non-vend article storage area. The non-vend article storage area is securable within the cabinet or may be removeably affixed and locked to the outside of the cabinet. A non-vend article storage area is an area within the cabinet capable of holding a plurality of articles that are not accessible by the vending apparatus for vending through normal operation of the machine. Articles within the non-vend article storage area may only be vended if the cabinet is opened and the articles within the non-vend article storage area are manually removed from the non-vend article storage area and placed within one of the vendable article storage areas.
  • In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the non-vend article storage area is adapted to receive a non-vend article storage module that is removeable from the cabinet and may be interchanged with another non-vend article storage module. In the presently preferred embodiment, when secured within the cabinet, one face of the non-vend article storage module comprises a portion of the front face of the vending machine cabinet. However, alternate configurations fall within the scope of the present invention wherein the non-vend article storage module is enclosed within the cabinet behind a securable door of the cabinet. In yet another alternative configuration, the non-vend article storage module may simply securably mate with an outer wall of the cabinet.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The particular features and advantages of the invention as well as other objects will become apparent from the following description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings in which:
  • FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a vending machine having a non-vend article storage area and a non-vend article storage module according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 2 is a side view of a non-vend article storage module according to the present invention; and
  • FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a vending machine having a non-vend article storage area.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention is generally directed to a cabinet or housing for a vending machine having a storage area within or attached to the cabinet for storing articles that cannot be vended. For ease of reference, a first type of article storage areas or containers within or attached to the cabinet from which the articles can be dispensed through the normal, automated operation of the vending machine shall be referred to herein as “vendable storage areas” or “vendable article storage areas.” A second type of storage area within or attached to the cabinet for holding articles that the vending machine cannot dispense in the course of its normal, automated operation shall be referred to herein as a “non-vend storage area” or a “non-vend article storage area.” Preferably, the presently preferred embodiment of the invention further comprises a readily interchangeable, non-vend article storage module sized to be received within the non-vend article storage area of the cabinet as illustrated and described below.
  • Referring now to the drawings, in which like numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views, FIG. 1 shows a vending machine 10 made in accordance with the present invention. The vending machine 10 is defined by a housing or cabinet 12, typically of metal or hard plastic construction and may include a clear face (not shown in FIG. 1) for viewing. The cabinet 12 may be securably closed, such as with hinged door 17 and a lock 16.
  • Disposed inside the cabinet 12 are one or more vend storage areas 13 for holding a plurality of articles 11, such as beverage cans, and a dispensing apparatus 15 for moving or allowing the movement of an article 11 from a vend storage area 13 along a dispensing path 14 to a dispensing area 19 accessible from without the cabinet 12, such as through opening 18 in door 17. Different types and configurations of dispensing apparatus 15 and dispensing areas 19 are known in the art and any may be employed in connection with the present invention. Similarly, many types and configurations of vend storage areas 13 exist in the art and may be employed in connection with the present invention. Prior art vend storage areas 13, however, all share the common function of storing articles 11 for automatic vending by means of one or more associated dispensing apparatus 15.
  • The vending machine 10 of the present invention further comprises one or more non-vend article storage areas 21 within the cabinet 12. Articles within the non-vend storage areas are separated or isolated from the dispensing apparatus and may not be vended unless physically placed within a vendable storage area. In a preferred embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, a non-vend article storage area 21 is adapted for receiving a non-vend article storage module 20. A non-vend article storage module 20 or area 21 is distinguishable from the vendable article storage areas 13 of a vending machine 10 because articles 11 stored within a non-vend article storage module 20 or area 21 are not accessible to be dispensed by the dispensing apparatus 15. It is conceivable that a cabinet 12 may be configured to include a plurality of non-vend article storage areas 21 within the cabinet 12, however, in order to be suitable for the practical purposes of this invention, each of such non-vend article storage areas 21 would preferably be sized to accommodate at least as many articles 11 as are required to fully stock a vendable article storage area 13 of the types present in the vending machine 10. In other words, the present invention is not intended to encompass every void within a vending machine housing, rather the non-vend storage areas of the present invention must encompass an area sufficient to accommodate a significant number of articles and should have a relatively level surface such as floor 22 or shelves 23 upon which articles may be placed. Additionally, the non-vend storage areas 21 of the present invention are readily accessible to an operator having access to the inside of the cabinet 12.
  • In one preferred embodiment, the non-vend storage area 21 is sized to receive a non-vend article storage module 20 that is substantially the height H of the cabinet 12. The non-vend storage module 20 may be interchangeably received and releasably secured within the cabinet. When secured within the cabinet 12, an outer face 28 of the non-vend storage module 20 may comprise a first portion of the front side of the cabinet 12 with a second portion of the front side of the cabinet 12 formed by the outer surface 26 of door 17 (as shown in FIG. 2). Alternatively, the non-vend article storage module 20 may be configured to fit entirely within the cabinet 12 such that the cabinet door 17 fully encloses the non-vend article storage module 20 (as shown in FIG. 3).
  • In the preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the non-vend article storage module 20 may further comprise a payment system or one or more components thereof for the vending machine, said payment system typically comprising a coin slot 34, bill validator 35, coin return 36, cash box 33 and means for communicating payment information to the other systems, including the dispensing apparatus, of the vending machine 10, such as a computer processor (not shown). Vending machine payment systems may also include credit or debit card readers (not shown) or electronic payment processing means (not shown) or any other payment means known in the art. Vending machine payment systems and other vending machine systems may also communicate with a data recording system (not shown) for tracking sales information such as cash flows, inventory counts and weights, temperatures and other functional data, and other relevant business information such as the results of diagnostic routines regarding the various systems of the vending machine. When the payment system, data recording system or select components of either of them are positioned aboard the non-vend article storage module 20, the payment system, data recording system or components thereof must operatively connect with the vending machine 10 when the non-vend article storage module 20 is secured within the cabinet 12, such as with electronic cables that plug in to make a connection or matching contact points (not shown) thereby allowing the communication means of the payment system to interact with the article selection system 24 and dispensing apparatus 15 of the vending machine 10 for proper functioning.
  • In a preferred embodiment, a lockable cash box 33 may be incorporated into the non-vend article storage module 20. The cash box 33 may be independently removable or permanently affixed within the non-vend article storage module 20. The cash box 33 is operatively connected with payment means 34, 35 on the outer face 28 of the non-vend article storage module 20, or in other alternative embodiments not illustrated in FIG. 1, the cabinet 12 or door 17 of the vending machine 10. If the non-vend article storage module 20 is fully enclosed behind the cabinet door 17, payment means on the cabinet door (not shown) must cooperate with corresponding access into the cash box 33. Finally, the payment system or cash box 33 may also be enclosed behind its own securable and lockable cash box door 38.
  • Similarly, the non-vend article storage module 20 may further comprise the article selection system or one or more components of the selection system, such as selection buttons 24 of the vending machine 10. For example, selection buttons 24 may be carried on the outer face 28 of the non-vend article storage module 20 and be operatively connected to the vending machine 10 when the non-vend article storage module 20 is secured within the cabinet 12 to allow the selection system 24 or components thereof to interact with the payment, dispensing and any other systems of the vending machine 10 for proper functioning. Of course, the selection system may comprise any of the numerous forms of selection systems available in the art.
  • The non-vend article storage module 20 preferably further comprises means for assisting with movement, such as a plurality of attached wheels 32. Due to its weight, especially when loaded, the non-vend article storage module 20 may further comprise a braking means, such as a foot brake 29. As shown in FIG. 2, alternate means for assisting with movement of the non-vend article storage module 20 may also be incorporated, such as, but not limited to, the use of a wheeled dolly 48 configured to mate with the bottom 27 of the non-vend article storage module 20. Use of a wheeled dolly 48 may require that the non-vend article storage module 20 be fitted with means for spacing the mating section above the floor, such as an appropriate number of legs or other support members 49. Other combinations and configurations of wheels and handles for assisting with the movement of the storage module 20 are within the contemplation of this invention. Also, because of the potential weight of a fully-loaded non-vend article storage module 20, it may be practical to employ a conventional means of preventing tipping (not shown).
  • Because it is mobile, as shown in FIG. 2, the non-vend article storage module 20 is preferably equipped with its own module door 41 to retain articles 11 stored within. The module door 41 may be hinged as shown in FIG. 2, or a sliding door (not shown) or any other type of securable door desired. The door 41 of non-vend article storage module 20 is preferably securable and lockable with any type of lock 43 known in the art.
  • As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the non-vend article storage module 20 may comprise a plurality of shelves 23 for individual articles 11 or cases 31 or boxes of articles of a similar type. As is well known in the art, articles or products that are typically distributed through vending machines usually are acquired from the manufacturer packaged together in specific-sized lots, known generally as “cases.” For example, a case of beverages is generally 24-units while a case of candy bars may be 10 or 20. Different products are sold in different quantity cases, but it is generally well known to refer to different products by the “case.” But for accounting purposes, the vending industry customarily prefers that vending machines be loaded by the “case,” regardless of the article type, in order to avoid the difficulties associated with accounting for part cases of inventory. Therefore, in another preferable embodiment of the present invention, the non-vend article storage area 21 (or multiple non-vend article storage areas 21 within the same vending machine 10) and the non-vend article storage module 20 have a total area sufficient to accommodate at least one case of at least one type of the articles of the type being vended through the vending machine, and preferably a plurality of cases of articles.
  • Shelves 23 and indeed the whole inner space 45 of the non-vend article storage module 20 may be specially configured as desired to maximize the amount of articles 11 or cases 31 of articles of a particular kind which may be retained therein based upon the size, shape or weight of the articles 11, the intent being that the present invention may be useful with any article 11 or product capable of being vending through vending machine technology.
  • In another embodiment, the non-vend article storage module 20 may be configured to serve as a device for transporting other modular elements of the vending machine. For example, when emptied of articles 11, one or more shelves 23 of the non-vend article storage module 20 may be adapted to receive the refrigeration compressor (not shown) of a refrigerated vending machine. For refrigerated vending machines, it is well known that one of the components of the vending machine that most frequently requires servicing is the compressor. It is known in the art to make modular compressors that may be interchangeably utilized in refrigerated vending machines so that the machine does not suffer down-time while a compressor unit is being repaired. The non-vend article storage module 20 may be adapted to receive such a modular compressor to assist in the overall service of the machine. Of course other parts of the vending machine apparatus could conceivably be stored or transported in the non-vend article storage module 20 of the present invention.
  • Similarly, other vending machine systems or components of different systems of the vending machine may be incorporated into the storage module 20 of the present invention. For example, and not as a limitation, if it is desirable to keep the articles 11 in the storage module 20 cool, the storage module 20 may include an independent refrigeration system (not shown).
  • Turning, then, to FIG. 3, an embodiment of the present invention at its most basic is shown. The a vending machine 10 illustrated comprises a cabinet 12 with a hinged front door 17, the front door 17 including a see-through window 56, through which a plurality of vendable article storage areas 13 holding articles 11 for vending may be viewed. A dispensing apparatus, in this illustration, a horizontal conveyor 51 raised and lowered in front of the vendable storage areas 13 on parallel side tracks 59, is also enclosed within the cabinet 12. The vending machine 10 further comprises a payment system (comprising coin slot 34, bill validator 35, coin return 36 and cash box (not shown)) and a selection system (comprising buttons 24) operatively connected to payment system and dispensing apparatus 51. Vending machine 10 further comprises a dispensing area 19 accessible through opening 18 in door 17. Non-vend article storage area 21 is accessible by a second door 57 in cabinet 12 and may be securably closed by a lock 58. The embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3 does not utilize an interchangeable module such as that shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, and comprises simply a space and relatively level surface 22 or 23 within the cabinet of the vending machine 10 for the secure storage of a plurality of articles 11 which cannot be dispensed through the dispensing apparatus 51, 59 of the vending machine 10. If desired, a non-vend article storage module (not shown) could be fashioned to fit within the non-vend article storage area 21.
  • Numerous alterations of the structure herein disclosed will suggest themselves to those skilled in the art. However, it is to be understood that the present disclosure relates to the preferred embodiment of the invention which is for purposes of illustration only and not to be construed as a limitation of the invention. All such modifications which do not depart from the spirit of the invention are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims.

Claims (43)

1. A cabinet for housing a vending machine for vending articles, said cabinet having a storage area for storing articles that cannot be vended.
2. The cabinet of claim 1 further comprising a storage module adapted to be releasably received within the storage area.
3. The cabinet of claim 2 wherein the vending machine further comprises a payment system comprising one or more payment system components, and wherein at least one payment system component is positioned aboard the storage module and operatively connected to said payment system when the storage module is received within the storage area.
4. The cabinet of claim 3 wherein the payment system component positioned aboard the storage module is a cash box.
5. The cabinet of claim 4 wherein the cash box is enclosed within the storage module by a securable cash box door.
6. The cabinet of claim 2 wherein the vending machine further comprises a selection system comprising one or more selection system components, and wherein at least one selection system component is positioned aboard the storage module and operatively connected to said vending machine when the storage module is received within the storage area.
7. The cabinet of claim 2 wherein the vending machine further comprises a data recording system comprising one or more data recording components, and wherein at least one data recording component is positioned aboard the storage module and operatively connected to said vending machine when the storage module is received within the storage area.
8. The cabinet of claim 2 further comprising a securable door for enclosing the storage module within the cabinet.
9. The cabinet of claim 1 further comprising a securable door for enclosing the storage area for storing articles that cannot be vended.
10. The cabinet of claim 1 wherein the storage area for storing articles that cannot be vended further comprises at least one relatively level surface upon which one or more articles may be placed.
11. The cabinet of claim 2 wherein the cabinet has a front side and wherein an outer face of the storage module comprises a portion of the front side of the cabinet when received within the storage area.
12. The cabinet of claim 1 wherein the vending machine further comprises at least one storage area for storing articles that can be vended and wherein the storage area for storing articles that cannot be vended encompasses an area sufficient to accommodate at least as many articles as are required to stock a single storage area for storing articles that can be vended.
13. The cabinet of claim 1 wherein the total area encompassed within one or more storage areas for storing articles that cannot be vended is sufficient to accommodate at least a case of the articles to be vended.
14. The cabinet of claim 2 wherein the storage module further comprises a securable door.
15. The cabinet of claim 2 wherein the storage module further comprises means for assisting with movement.
16. A vending machine for dispensing articles comprising:
(a) one or more first article storage areas for storing a first plurality of articles;
(b) one or more dispensing paths positioned about the first article storage areas for dispensing the first plurality of articles;
(c) a second article storage area for storing a second plurality of articles; said second article storage area lacking a connection to any dispensing path.
17. The vending machine of claim 16 further comprising a storage module adapted to be releasably received within said second article storage area.
18. The vending machine of claim 17 further comprising a payment system comprising one or more payment system components, and wherein at least one payment system component is positioned aboard the storage module and operatively connected to said payment system when the storage module is received within the storage area.
19. The vending machine of claim 18 wherein the payment system component positioned aboard the storage module is a cash box.
20. The vending machine of claim 19 wherein the cash box is enclosed within the storage module by a securable cash box door.
21. The vending machine of claim 17 further comprising a selection system comprising one or more selection system components, and wherein at least one selection system component is positioned aboard the storage module and operatively connected to said vending machine when the storage module is received within the second article storage area.
22. The vending machine of claim 17 further comprising a data recording system comprising one or more data recording components, and wherein at least one data recording component is positioned aboard the storage module and operatively connected to the vending machine when the storage module is received within the second article storage area.
23. The vending machine of claim 17 further comprising a securable door for enclosing the storage module within the cabinet.
24. The vending machine of claim 16 further comprising a securable door for enclosing the second article storage area.
25. The vending machine of claim 16 wherein the second article storage area further comprises at least one relatively level surface upon which one or more articles may be placed.
26. The vending machine of claim 17 wherein the cabinet has a front side and wherein an outer face of the storage module comprises a portion of the front side of the cabinet when received within the second article storage area.
27. The vending machine of claim 16 wherein the second article storage area encompasses an area sufficient to accommodate at least as many articles as are required to stock a single first article storage area.
28. The vending machine of claim 16 wherein the total area encompassed within one or more of said second article storage areas is sufficient to accommodate at least a case of the articles to be vended.
29. The vending machine of claim 17 wherein the storage module further comprises a securable door.
30. The vending machine of claim 17 wherein the storage module further comprises means for assisting with movement.
31. A cabinet for housing a vending machine for vending articles, said cabinet having an storage area module for storing articles that cannot be vended, said storage area module being releasably secured to said cabinet.
32. The cabinet of claim 31 wherein the vending machine further comprises a payment system comprising one or more payment system components, and wherein at least one payment system component is positioned aboard the storage area module and operatively connected to said payment system when the storage area module is secured to the cabinet.
33. The cabinet of claim 32 wherein the payment system component positioned aboard the storage module is a cash box.
34. The cabinet of claim 33 wherein the cash box is enclosed within the storage area module by a securable cash box door.
35. The cabinet of claim 31 wherein the vending machine further comprises a selection system comprising one or more selection system components, and wherein at least one selection system component is positioned aboard the storage area module and operatively connected to said vending machine when the storage area module is secured to the cabinet.
36. The cabinet of claim 31 wherein the vending machine further comprises a data recording system comprising one or more data recording components, and wherein at least one data recording component is positioned aboard the storage area module and operatively connected to said vending machine when the storage area module is secured to the cabinet.
37. The cabinet of claim 31 further comprising a securable door for enclosing the storage area module within the cabinet.
38. The cabinet of claim 31 wherein the storage area module further comprises at least one relatively level surface upon which one or more articles may be placed.
39. The cabinet of claim 31 wherein the cabinet has a front side and wherein an outer face of the storage area module comprises a portion of the front side of the cabinet when secured to the cabinet.
40. The cabinet of claim 31 wherein the vending machine further comprises at least one storage area for storing articles that can be vended and wherein the storage area module encompasses an area sufficient to accommodate at least as many articles as are required to stock a single storage area for storing articles that can be vended.
41. The cabinet of claim 31 wherein the total area encompassed within the storage area module is sufficient to accommodate at least a case of the articles to be vended.
42. The cabinet of claim 31 wherein the storage area module further comprises a securable door.
43. The cabinet of claim 31 wherein the storage area module further comprises means for assisting with movement.
US11/433,874 2006-05-12 2006-05-12 Vending machine with non-vend storage area and modular storage unit Abandoned US20070262083A1 (en)

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